Everywhere you turn these days, people are talking about artificial intelligence (AI). From workplaces and dinner tables to the hallways of power and international summits of world leaders, AI is stimulating vigorous debate about how it can continue to improve our lives while ensuring its power is harnessed for good.

While AI is a constantly evolving technology, it is not new. At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we’ve been focusing on it for years, making it accessible to anyone who wants to use it. This includes more than 100,000 customers of all sizes, in all industries, who are using it to improve customer service and experiences, boost sales, detect and prevent online fraud, and reduce waste.

Here in Canada, for example, App8 used AI and machine learning (ML) to develop highly accurate forecasts that help restaurants predict customer volumes and demand for specific menu items, allowing them to better manage their inventory, reduce wastages and improve staff scheduling.

KOHO Financial uses AI and ML to achieve near-real-time data analytics to simplify its data management processes and enhance its fraud prevention capabilities by quickly identifying suspicious activities to help protect its customers and their money.

In British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health and SapienSecure are working with the UBC Cloud Innovation Centre to use AI, ML and natural language processing to help speed access to MRI scans for thousands of patients in the Lower Mainland.

These and many other applications use various iterations of AI that are already available. But what about the future?

The newly emerging, and very exciting, next step is generative AI, which helps enable new capabilities such as code generation, drafting written content, creating images based on text prompts, and transforming existing ML-powered capabilities like web search and chatbots.

ChatGPT has been one of the first, broad generative AI applications that recently sparked a wave of interest and inspiration, leading many to rapidly experiment with how to take advantage of it. However, this is just one example of what generative AI can do.

Businesses want to understand how they can leverage generative AI to create new capabilities that could increase productivity, like bringing data together from disparate systems into one holistic view, to enable better outcomes through data analytics and natural language search queries.

That’s why we’re focused on democratizing access to generative AI, giving businesses choice and flexibility to pick between different solutions, helping to bring down their costs and reduce complexity.

All industries have a great opportunity to capitalize on this nascent technology to build innovative, industry-specific solutions.

For example, retailers could query a virtual assistant on stock levels across their stores, predict busy periods, and order more inventory, all from a single chat interface. They can also customize their marketing activities in a hyper-personalized way based on their customers’ past preferences.

Some Canadian companies are already seizing the opportunities. Toronto-based The Fitting Room leverages AI and 3D deep technology to allow online shoppers to try on clothes virtually before buying them. This gives consumers greater confidence in their online selections, leading to more sales and fewer returns.

In healthcare, generative AI assistants can analyze patient data from multiple sources, help identify patterns, and then present a summarized view of findings for review, augmenting the skills of medical professionals and improving patient outcomes.

The technology can also help drive environmental and sustainability outcomes, such as helping architects generate building designs with proven patterns to minimize energy consumption or perform large scale modelling and simulations for more sustainable urban and regional planning.

To address the shortage of software engineers, developers are also starting to leverage AI-assisted coding companions to help them to create code for undifferentiated tasks. This helps them complete tasks more quickly, so they can focus on writing more valuable and creative code.

Canadian companies need to up-skill their staff to support the rapidly evolving capabilities of generative AI and stay ahead of the curve. According to a recent KPMG survey, Canadian organizations are trailing behind their U.S. counterparts in both AI adoption, and experimentation with generative AI, due to a lack of skilled talent and quality data to train AI algorithms.

The responsible use and development of this new technology is important to consider as companies explore and invest in generative AI. Factors like accuracy, privacy, copyright, and bias need to be addressed collaboratively by industry and government. Globally, AWS is working alongside others like the OECD AI working groups, the Partnership on AI, and the Responsible AI Institute to develop new approaches and solutions to identify and address these issues.

Generative AI is an exciting disruptor for businesses. Used responsibly, it can enhance our abilities to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems while boosting our productivity in a sustainable way. Its potential is limited only by how far human creativity can take us.